Thursday, August 31, 2006

Requiem for a Deen

A couple weeks ago I promised a "monster post about the downfall of Paula Deen." This was easier said than done, however, because what is a blogger to do when watching Paula Deen becomes downright painful? I had five Paula's Home Cooking shows stored up on my TiVo and could only watch a few minutes of each before getting annoyed or depressed.

Paula used to be like a favorite great aunt1, the one whose recipes you secretly like more than your own mother's. You knew she had some hard times in her past but she was too private and dignified to broadcast her troubles to the world. She's the one you planned your wedding around, knowing that if she couldn't be there, the day wouldn't be complete.

But what happens when that aunt, for whatever reason, becomes a shell of her former self? You steel yourself before a visit and tell yourself that it won't be as bad this time, that maybe she's better now. When you get there her sad eyes and desperate loneliness make you want to cry, but instead you put on a brave face and a warm smile and try to enjoy her company. No one wants to be pitied, but sometimes when she's in the midst of yet another socially inappropriate remark you just wonder what happened to the old her, the one you still love.

And so it is with Paula Deen.

I love Paula and have no way of knowing what is going on with her, but the way she looks, acts and even cooks this season is downright disturbing. She looks puffy, tired, and all-around haggard. I now get more traffic to my site via "what is wrong with paula deen" queries than "sandra lee naked" queries (and that's saying something). Paula seems uncomfortable in front of the camera at times and the delivery of her Southern-isms is forced.

Predictably, her recipes have begun to decline. Paula has always turned out food that looked really good, even if it was unhealthy. Lately though, she's been venturing into Sandra Lee territory with some really awful looking dishes. I was afraid this would happen. There are limits to Southern cousine, as evidenced by Paula's five fried chicken recipes.

Sadly, we've seen all this before with Rachael Ray. Like Rachael, Paula has a a magazine and a new talk show debuting next month. Like Rachael, Paula has gone from being friendly and folksy to being over-the-top, loud, and obnoxious. If this quote about Paula's new talk show is any indication, it will be unwatchable:

Hosted by Paula Deen, 59, the hourlong program will be more “Romper Room” than “Cooking with Master Chefs.” At the taping of an early episode, Deen spent time trying on a young audience member’s stilettos, telling jokes and staging a live crab race. She named her entry “Cocaine Connie.”

“I’m keepin’ the hair high and the expectations low, and that way I can’t lose,” Deen drawled afterward.

Strangely, the Food Network is pinning its hopes on Paula's Party to attract younger viewers:

Aside from airing at night, Deen’s new show will feature a studio audience and less cooking instruction. Food Network thinks her biting sense of humor and somewhat unruly behavior will help attract a younger audience.

“We consider it Paula unplugged,” Tuschman says. “You never know what is going to come out of her mouth.”

So I find myself in a familiar place, lamenting the state of the Food Network. Sara Moulton left the network and is headed for PBS. Molto Mario was cancelled. Tony Bourdain moved over to the Travel Channel and now has one of the most interesting shows on television2. Food Network is losing (pushing away?) all of its heavy hitters, and pretty soon all that will be left are the amped-up versions of Rachael Ray, Paula Deen and Sandra Lee. Watch your backs, Ina and Giada!

At least I'm not the only one who thinks this is ridiculous. This blatant MTV-ization of the Food Network worries me. Sheesh, maybe if things don't work out with Paula and Michael they can give her a dating show, a la Flavor of Love. For old times' sake, maybe they could call it Butter Flavor of Love.

Call me when you get back, Paula. I'll be waiting for you.

1As opposed to your black sheep, drunken aunt.
2Really, Bourdain in Beirut is one of the better things I've seen on TV all year. Set your TiVos.


books said...

Another great blog!
I couldn't agree more. I rarely watch FNework anymore. It's just turned to cheesiness and insulting the audience.

Lucy said...

You know...Paula's been bugging me lately, too and I just couldn't quite come to terms with why. I guess I'm in denial that she's following the Rachael/Sandra path into idiocy.

It's sad b/c FoodTV is single-handedly responsible for getting me to fall in love with cooking, real cookiing, all over again. I hate that it's turning into...whatever it is it's turning into.

I just hope Giada doesn't follow their path - I can see it happening without too much effort.

JordanBaker said...

I've been getting a lot of "what's the matter with Paula Deen" searches lately too. One of the things that struck me most is that her speech patterns seem to have changed dramatically of late. It's almost like she's drugged or something.

Armchair Cook said...

jordanbaker - Crap, I completely forgot to address the slurring! Also, some of her movements are odd, like they're in slow motion. Both those things make me wonder if she's drugged.

Armchair Cook said...

lucy - Giada is already branching out:

"Food Network chef Giada De Laurentiis has signed a deal with NBC's "The Today Show" to become a contributing correspondent."

Uh oh.

RSVP Shindig said...

I will not falter. I will forever remain a faithful fan of Paula Deen. You know I am one of those closet cases who also subscribes to her magazine. I'm addicted to seeing how she decorated. Obviously I have to seek help Armchair Cook. :)

BUT I do wonder why she is not up to her normal self? She seems to be preoccupied.

Do you think she could actually have something wrong with her?

I haven't even seen her rolling her eyes or crossing them together lately.

It's a ver "OH DEAR" time when watching Paula.

RSVP Shindig said...

hey and did you know she is Grandma Paula now? Jamie and his wife Brooke had a little boy.

Cate said...

I don't honestly get how Paula is going to attract younger viewers ... younger chefs attract younger viewers. Simple equation. Hot chefs attract younger viewers. I'm going to check out her new show, because we entertain a lot and maybe I'll get a new idea or two, but I agree, her regular shows have been a bit difficult to watch, particularly the one with her and Michael eating in their bathrobes.

Elaine wanna-be said...

Ewww, I didn't know she smoked! Oh Paula, nooooo!

KarenLee said...

Great post. I have pretty much given up on the Food Network (I TiVo "Good Eats") - I got sick of seeing Rachael Ray on there all the time. Now they've done the same thing to Paula? THat's awful.

What's wrong with letting Food Network being about, well - FOOD? Seems they are pursuing that young, hip 18-24 male demographic. There are plenty of 30-somethings that used to make up their audience that have been alienated.

Yankee Doodle said...

I was not happy with the European show earlier this year, actually as an American I can say I was embarrassed with some of her actions and words.

The new party show has just reinforced my uneasiness with her latest persona. Bless her heart I hope she finds her way back to what made her what she is today.

Zuk said...

Have you looked at the food photos lately? I followed the links to Paula's "awful looking" food--and found beautiful photos. Then I started looking at other Paula Deen recipes. Guess what? None of them had photos! I wonder if Food TV is monitoring your blog and making retro-changes?

Anonymous said...

I noticed that Paula show started going down since she moved to that big kitchen,
This is when she started looking tired and the food became unattractive.
Maybe she should move back to that old kitchen of hers.

"Doc" said...

Completely AGREE!!! FNetwork has really hit the skids. Someone needs to get Directors by the nape of the neck and shake them HARD. Rachel Ray is THE single most offensive thing on Television, BAR none. A second is Paula Deen. My God, am I tired of her..."I got me a Suga Daddy...ain't God Good?" Syrupy Sing Song. I don't begrudge her hard work and success one bit...but anyone who needs to braodcast their Nuptuals via the FOOD Network has some serious "Im gonna rub MY sucess in YO FACE" issues. Those two boys are absurd...and Fat "Suga Daddy" woould BEST serve the industry and Paul in something OTHER than an ON Camera Capacity. The whole thing is a waste of the ether. Absolutely sickening. Cut the LOOK at ME..I made it...Garbage and just cook!!!!!

jacquelyn said...

I am through watching Ms. Deen; she is more focused on displaying and discussing her new earned wealth, rags to riches story rather than presenting solid recipes. There were minutes wasted during a show when son Bobby for reasons unknown began discussing his new home and her large money contribution to it came up...she kept asking him silly questions to the detail of his "getting it in installments", he looked sorry that he ever brought it up. During the European show segment, the husband Michael made his single comment about how travel there could hit the pocketbook and she fired back that "he had already hit hers!" These types of comments are regular, I don't understand why FNTV doesn't edit it out. When FNTV cuts out the boys, the husband and any other of the distracting family members that keep popping in, if they delete that nightmare wedding segment, when Paula quits advertising the far less than grand buffet cafeteria "Lady and Sons" she might return to is, it's vulgar and tasteless.

temdem said...

As an 11th generation Southerner from your neighboring state of Alabama, I am amazed at the cultish devotion to Paula Deen...She has apparently advanced Savannah tourism...But,give me a break !She's a crude,obnoxious buffoon...A savant where money-making and self-promotion are concerned...She perpetuates the stereotypical view that the world has of the American South...She promotes and thrives on the "Redneck Culture" mentality...I wish that everyone could experience the wonderful grace that I see in My South everyday ! And,as for true Southern cooking,I come from a long line of extremely great Southern cooks...Ms.Deen is NOT representative of that great legacy....And,her unwavering loyalty to the vile Smithfield Company is another matter...She has absolutely no concern for poor workers,poor animals,or our poor environment.It's all about the MONEY y'all!

castle010 said...

i like paula all need to leave her alone.she cooks good.

J Baker said...

When I googled "Paula Dean obnoxious" it brought me here. So glad was I to see that many others see this bit*h in the same light as I do.
The arrogance, coupled with her irritating laugh, and frequent sexual innuendo remarks make me want to puke.

steve said...

What was once a very enjoyable half hour on the food network hosted by a most charming and attractive hostess has evolved into a ridiculous sideshow that must certainly be and embarresment to
the Food Network.
I wonder if anyone has
ever suggested to Ms.
Deen, that if a little
bit of something is good, a lot is not always better. With no
disrespect intended, her sons do nothing to
enhance the quality of
the show. I hope her
business affairs are in better management than the production.
This whole Paula Deen thing has become a
debacle. Yesterday at
the market, I saw a
picture of her and her grandchild on the
cover of a magazine.
The photo was so over
touched up that I was
embarressed for her.
While all this hype and PR and self marketing may be bringing her some revenue, it has certainly shortened her shelf life. What's
next, A made for TV
biography? That would
be boring as we've already heard it all.
Many times.

LizB said...

Just to give her the benefit of the doubt, is it possible this news about her maid stealing from her has been stressing her out?